Mark 11:25 – And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing. (HCSB)
Matthew 6:14-15 – For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (HCSB)
It seems that “forgive” has been my word study recently. I’m hearing sermons about forgiveness. I’m reading daily devotions about forgiveness. I’m reading a novel with the theme of forgiveness. I’m hearing other people talk about forgiveness. Are you trying to tell me something, Lord? I don’t really have a “get-even” attitude, but does that really equate forgiveness? I recently heard someone say that refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We know that would never work, but everyday we encounter people who are holding tight to their anger, letting it eat away at them while the person they are refusing to forgive is going merrily along, possibly not even aware of the situation. Am I one of those people, clutching my anger like a child would a blanket? Lord, help me to never lose sight of the fact that You know my disappointments and my anger. You tell me that I need to forgive – not to benefit the other person but for my own wellbeing. Doctors tell us that anger and resentment lead to physical ailments and degeneration. You tell us that anger and resentment lead to spiritual ailments and degeneration. I saw a post on a social media site that said “Forgiveness doesn’t forgive their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying you.” Lord, Your Son died a horrible death so that I could have a relationship with You. Am I am letting my stubborn pride and anger come between You and me? How many times have I said “Please forgive me, Lord” but then walked away with no forgiveness in my heart for others, much like the servant described in Matthew 18: 26-29? How many times have I said the words from the prayer model You gave, asking You to forgive me as I forgive others, fully expecting forgiveness from You without any plan to forgive others? Lord, I come to You asking for Your help in letting go of my unforgiving spirit. Help me to forgive as You have forgiven me.
Matthew 5:13 – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. (HCSB)
I was looking on a web site that gives household tips and read about adding a pinch of salt to the brewing basket of the coffeepot. There were several tips that involved salt and that lead me to thinking about how Jesus said we are the salt of the earth. Of everything He could have said, why salt? The Salt Institute tells us there are over 14,000 different uses for salt. I started researching salt and found that salt is used in food, drug, agricultural, chemical, and industrial areas. Salt is the only rock humans can eat. Like a snowflake, every crystal of salt is uniquely different. The human body needs salt but we cannot make it for ourselves; we must take it in. Roman soldiers were paid in salt. Ever heard the term “not worth his salt” to describe a lazy person? Salt is used to preserve meat because it stops rot. Salt is an antiseptic, a cleansing agent. Salt is used to melt ice on wintery days. When the correct amount of salt is placed on food, the salt disappears but the flavor of the food is enhanced. Colossians 4:6 says that our speech should be seasoned with salt. Jesus has called us to be salt, to add flavor to the world around us, to stand against the rot of a sinful world. But, salt that has lost its taste is worthless. Pure salt does not lose its saltiness, but contaminated salt does. Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to this world, not be so much a part of the world that we can’t make a difference, not to become contaminated salt. Does that mean that we should only socialize with people who are just like us? Salt is powerful but is absolutely worthless unless it is applied. Matthew and Mark both tell us that Jesus said “go out into the world and teach the gospel.” Romans 10:14 reminds us that people can’t know the truth unless someone tells them. Salt sitting on the table is pretty but it must come into contact with the food to make a difference. There is even a book by Rebecca Manley Pippert titled “Out of the Saltshaker & into the World: Evangelism as a Way of Life”. People need salt but need someone to give it to them. People need You but need someone to show the way. Lord, I want to be salt. I want to be uniquely different from the world but still enhance the world. I want to be worth my salt in Your sight, Lord. I want to be the salt of the earth.
Matthew 8: 23-25: 23 As He got into the[a] boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. 25 So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!” (HCSB)
I’m going to need an extra cup of coffee this morning! I was awakened very early this morning to the sound of a hard rain being driven against my bedroom window by a strong wind. As I snuggled deeper into my warm bed in my dry house, I thought of the disciples in the storm at sea. They too experienced a hard rain driven by a strong wind, but while I enjoy a warm house, they were in a boat. I picture the disciples wet – it probably seemed that walls of water were coming from all sides. I picture them cold – rain from storms always seems so cold. I picture them battered – the boat was probably being tossed about on the rough waves. I picture them gasping for air — probably every breath seemed to carry more water than oxygen. These were men who knew about traveling on boats. They had been taught what to do during a storm, but nothing was working. The worst thing they could imagine was happening. I have no problem at all picturing them being terrified! I can just hear the disciples calling Jesus, voices raised, talking over one another– What is wrong with You? Don’t You care about us at all? We are being tossed about and covered with water to the point of near death, and what are You doing??” But, verse 26 tells us that Jesus spoke to the storm as we would speak to an unruly child and that the storm calmed. Jesus could rest because He was not afraid of a little thing like a storm. He knew who was really in charge. The disciples felt that they were simply hanging on, doing all they knew to do, failing at every attempt when all they needed to do was trust the One who knew the way to calm the chaos. So often we today feel battered by the storms of everyday life. We feel like our little boat is being tossed around and is taking on water faster than we can bail. We are just hanging on, doing all we know to do, nothing is working, and we are terrified. We cannot find peace because we are so afraid of the storm. Lord, help us to remember that the One who calmed the storm described by Matthew, Luke, and Mark can surely calm the storm in our lives. You told us that we would have troubles and suffer, but You also told us to be courageous because You had conquered all of that (John 16:33). Lord, I may not know why I am going through a particular storm in my life, but I know the One who can calm the storm.
Psalm 22:1-2: My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Why are You so far from my deliverance
and from my words of groaning?[b]
2 My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer,
by night, yet I have no rest. (HCSB)
2 Timothy 4:16-17: At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be counted against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the proclamation might be fully made through me and all the Gentiles might hear. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (HCSB)
I am sitting here in the quiet of the morning, drinking my coffee, and pondering on a story I recently read. Two girls had memorized the last words of Jesus and had taken some of Jesus’ final words to describe their lives. One had chosen Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing” (HCSB). She lived her life that way, never carrying anger or bitterness and always being quick to forgive. The other girl chose Matthew 27:46 “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (HCSB). She had led a difficult life. She had a father who was physically abusive to her mother and verbally and emotionally abusive to her. She lived in poverty in an area where poverty was considered a character flaw. She was bi-racial, and her grandparents considered that a sin and refused to acknowledge her existence. I look at her life and think that I can understand how she would feel that God had abandoned her. She did carry anger, had lots of bitterness, and refused to forgive. She began to live her life by the oft quoted “scripture” that isn’t even scripture at all — God helps those that help themselves. In the end, she realized that You had always been there. You had protected her from certain situations. You had sent people into her life at certain times. Her new scripture became Matthew 28:20 “I am always with you.” Lord, my life has been nothing like that girl’s life. I’ve never been abused, or lived in poverty or been considered a walking sin. But, there have been many times when I too asked “why have You forsaken me?” Lord, I sit here with my empty coffee cup and a humble heart. You have been so good to me. I need to be like David and say “Even if my mother and father abandon me, the Lord cares for me (Psalm 27:10, HCSB), but often I am more like David in Psalm 22:1-2 asking why. 2Timothy 4:16-17 says that even when I feel abandoned by other people, You are always there. 1 Peter 5:7 tells me to give You all my worries because You care for me. Father God, please help me to abandon Matthew 27:46 as my mind set and replace it with Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” (HCSB)
Hebrews 12:2: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV)
Lord, I seem to be going in all directions this morning. I pick up something in one room and take it to another room, where I see something that I need to do, which leads me to another room and another task. I have made my own amusement park ride – going in all directions just to end up where I started. I decide I need to sit down with my cup of reheated-again-coffee, take a breath, and focus. Lord, I hear Your still, small voice reminding me that the way I live my life is sometimes like my time this morning. I spend a lot of time going in all directions when I need to focus on You and the direction that you have for me. Studies have shown that where our eyes go, our bodies will follow. Runners are told to focus on a point ahead. Professional drivers are told to focus on the road. Christians are told to focus on You. We all know what can happen when we lose focus. Runners cross out of their lanes. Drivers run off the road. Christians become confused. Matthew 14:29 tells us that Peter was walking on water when his focus was on You but sinking in the water when his focus changed. Professional drivers have caused major traffic issues because their focus changed. Well-trained runners have caused injuries to themselves and others when their focus changed. Christians have become mired in sin because their focus changed. Lord, help me to keep my focus on You, to look to You on my life’s walk, to look to You when things seem to be racing by, to look to You when I am on top and when circumstances seem to be pulling me under. Lord, help me to focus on You instead of the situation, to focus on Your healing instead of the pain, to focus on Your generosity instead of my wants. Psalm 121:5 says that You watch over me. Thank You, Lord, for never losing Your focus.